Flu on the rise

There is a rise in influenza patients this year in the emergency room at Central Peninsula Hospital, said Robert Emmick, M.D., medical director of the emergency department.

Last year, Emmick said the ER averaged about 40 to 44 patients with influenza, or the flu, each day during flu season. This year, the flu season has started earlier, and he said the ER has been seeing about 53 to 70 patients a day.

“It’s been a significant increase,” he said.

Emmick said the department noticed the spike around Christmas, primarily with an influx of Type A flu patients. There has been no cases in the ER of H1N1 — another type of the flu — and only a few Type B cases, he said.

Because the flu is a viral illness, Emmick said it can not be treated with antibiotics. “So instead we treat the symptoms such as fever, cough and body aches,” he said. Treating the symptoms, he said, eases the discomfort while the body fights the illness over several days.

Flu symptoms vary annually and there has been less vomiting and diarrhea with this year’s strain, Emmick said. The symptoms this year are coughing, body aches and a fever.

“Most of the time it’s treated symptomatically,” Emmick said, “but when you want to go see your doctor is when your fever’s over 103 and if you’re unable to catch your breath, and if you actually have vomiting and diarrhea and you’re getting dehydrated.”

Emmick said there has been no poor reactions to the flu vaccines.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and pertussis, or the whooping cough, are also illnesses circulating among Peninsula residents this time of year, Emmick said.

RSV has sent an increase of patients to the ER in the past few weeks and the main demographics affected are children, Emmick said.

A fever, cough and “significant” runny nose are RSV symptoms, Emmick said.

The whooping cough has sent far fewer patients to the ER, and many of the incidents could have been avoided if patients, or their parents, completed the full course of their immunizations, Emmick said.

Whooping cough symptoms are a fever and a bad cough, Emmick said.

Those who are sick — flu, RSV, whooping cough or otherwise — should cover their mouth when coughing and stay home from work or school to prevent spreading their illness, Emmick said.

 

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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